Franken’s Campaign Against Comcast Is No Joke

April 13, 2014 by  
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For Senator Al Franken, the political became personal at a “Saturday Night Live” cast party, of all places.
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Bill Maher Takes On Right-Wing Talk Radio For ‘Bitching’, ‘Influencing Stupidity’

April 12, 2014 by  
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Bill Maher’s final new rule this week was directed at the Tea Party, demanding they explain how on earth they have the time to listen to so much talk radio. He then launched into a rant about right-wing talk radio hosts for having the primary go of ginning up anger and “stupidity.”

Watch the clip above to see Maher take Limbaugh and company to task, praise Ted Cruz for being the only politician to take a talk-radio approach to governing and reveal how Michele Bachmann compromised on gays.
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Weed Time With Bill Maher

April 11, 2014 by  
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Long before it was presidential to say marijuana is safer than alcohol, comedian, best-selling author, MLB Mets co-owner and progressive talk-show host Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time) was one of the brightest torches in favor of sensible marijuana policy.

With legal recreational sales in Colorado this year and a White House now talking about rescheduling marijuana to allow for research and treatment, it’s as if Maher was setting the stage for what has become a fast-moving revolution in the U.S.A.

The 58-year-old advisory board member at NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project is quick to spread the credit. He recently called Willie Nelson “one of our nation’s beloved founding stoners.”

More than anything else, though, Maher credits time itself for America’s rapid evolution on cannabis. Maher said in a lengthy conversation with The 420 Times that generations of tokers in red states and blue states have really changed our national conversation on legalization.

“Well, I mean, part of it is just generational,” he said. “More and more people over time are pot smokers. I’ve been fond of saying that it’s the one thing that unites the two parts of the country. We’re such a divided country, between the red and blue and the conservative and liberal, but everybody smokes dope. Willie Nelson smokes it and Snoop Dogg smokes it. Hillbillies smoke it plenty and so do hippies. So it’s sort of the ultimate purple issue.”

Another reason things have advanced so fast — in recreational states Colorado and Washington, and in the dozen or so states considering medical legalization today — is that dire consequences in places that have legitimized cannabis never came to fruition.

“Like some of the issues where the conservatives cry wolf, once people see that there is no great downside, they realize that the wolf crying was all a bunch of bullshit,” Maher says. “I mean, we saw that with gay marriage, same thing — the world didn’t end. When gay people got married, it didn’t really affect your marriage. … Medical marijuana has been around now for, oh, it’s coming up on 20 years in some states. It was first passed here in ’96. And the world hasn’t fallen down.”

Shouldn’t Maher, who admitted in March that a club in Las Vegas had stopped him from sparking up, tell America I told you so?

“I would never accuse America of being quick on coming up to issues. But, over time, I think even that [marijuana decriminalization] got into their heads,” Maher said. “That and also the major selling points that we’ve been trying to pound into people’s minds for the longest time, that even the president has said — it is less harmful than alcohol. I think Americans are finally coming around.”

Maher’s latest high horse is how marijuana will be the next civil rights issue, following the liberation of same-sex marriage in California and some other states. He’s not saying that getting high is a God-given right (though many of our founding fathers were hardcore beer aficionados). It’s more about justice.

African Americans in the nation’s capital are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, although both races use the drug at the same rate. Statistics like that have already inspired the Obama administration to relax mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level drug suspects, who are overwhelmingly minorities. Often people of color are behind bars for a drug that is widely believed to be safer than booze.

“The one thing that I always compare it to is gay marriage,” Maher says. “We did an editorial on this show a couple of years ago called ‘Pot Is The New Gay Marriage,’ and the point of it was gay marriage was, back 20 years ago, only polling at about 10 percent approval in America. Barely anybody who wasn’t gay wasn’t for it. Back in the ’90s … the closest thing we had to gay marriage was when Liza Minnelli married David Gest. But, the gay people and their lobbying arms were very efficient at just insisting and pounding away at the issue and not taking no for an answer. And, slowly, America did come around.”

In 2010 California had its chance to come around and become the first state in the union to legalize recreational marijuana. Proposition 19 came close, but it ultimately lost 54 percent in favor to 46 percent opposed. Efforts to get a legalization initiative on the ballot this year look like a long shot, but 2016, which will see a presidential election, could be a key year. Maher, who lives in L.A., has his theory about why California, the first state to give medicinal cannabis a chance, hasn’t been able to get it together for full legalization so far.

“We had it on the ballot in 2010 and it was going to pass, but not one Democrat in the state, not the Dianne Feinsteins, not the Barbara Boxers, nobody got behind it. And, of course ,that left it vulnerable and sort of just swinging in the wind. Halloween falls right before November and the evil people on the other side of the issue put out a rumor that there was marijuana in the Halloween candy. And that’s all that we needed. That’s how these evil politicians work. It scared people and, at the last minute, it was going to win — and then it lost.”

The comedian thinks legalization could provide a chance for Democrats, who always seem to be running toward more conservative, crime-and-punishment issues at the center, to redeem themselves and embrace a civil rights matter that Republicans might not be able to touch.

“Democrats do have to get behind it the way they — quote, unquote — evolved on gay marriage,” Maher says. “As soon as legalization hit 51 percent approval, there was suddenly a lot of evolving. Now as far as the Republicans go, that’s a much more interesting question because Republicans have an opening here with marijuana that I don’t think enough of them are taking advantage of. This could be an issue that they could steal. They could own weed and greed and they could do it with a straight face. I mean, there’s a lot about that issue that is in line with traditional, conservative principles, like individual liberty and, of course, taking jobs from Mexicans.”

Some Republicans, including presidential hopeful Rand Paul and Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, are already on board. Rohrabacher introduced legislation this year that would require Obama’s Drug Enforcement Administration agents to back off on collective crackdowns in medical states like California. On the right side of the political spectrum, this could be a states’ rights issue. “I think there is that wing of the Republican Party, that Libertarian wing,” Maher says.

With recreational legalization in California likely to come up again in 2016, and with a wide-open presidential race that could draw many younger voters to the polls, cannabis policy could be a huge issue in 2016.

“Rand Paul could steal the millennials away from the Democrats very easily,” Maher said. “Hillary [Clinton] does not look like somebody who is very in-tune with people who are 25 years old, but Rand Paul is a generation younger. If he ran a campaign based around not getting entangled in foreign affairs and [being for] personal liberties here at home, it could go a long way to getting that kind of voting bloc.”

Don’t, however, start to think that Maher has switched sides. He put $1 million behind Obama in 2012, and he’s quite happy with the investment, despite the slow pace of sensible marijuana policy at the White House.

“I do think it was money well spent because people may forget that, as of 2010, after the Supreme Court ruled on the Citizens United case and said money and politics was unlimited now, the playing field moved up to the million dollar level,” Maher says. “I mean, in 2008, I gave to Obama the most I could give to him, $2,300. By 2012 that had moved up from basically $2,300 to infinity, which is kind of a big jump.

“I did it early in the year to make the point to my fellow liberals who do have money that if we’re going to win this thing, we’re going to have to get in the game on the million-dollar level. Because most of the billionaires are of course, rich Republicans. They were gonna have to get in the game. And a lot of them did, and they told me, at the Super PAC, that a number of them did it because they had been inspired by what I was trying to say. I’m glad I did it.”

We had to point out to Mr. Maher that it was expensive being a political pimp. “That’s right,” he said.

In fact, Maher says it’s time for supporters of legalization and decriminalization to get out their checkbooks and play the game. We all know the rules now. There’s no ambiguity about them. Cash is going to win the day at the ballot box.

“We on the left should not unilaterally disarm,” Maher says. “We should play that game. But that doesn’t mean there’s still not a place for the small contributor because those people can contribute directly to the candidate and, of course, there’s no replacement for the ground game in politics. If you really want your candidate to win, volunteer. Get out there on election day, or before, and make calls, get people to the polls. That’s how you win elections.”

Maher is a true player who puts his money where his mouth is, and that includes Major League Baseball. In 2012 he invested in a piece of Mets ownership. And not just to be able to toke in the owners’ box.

“I’m hopeful for the Mets this year,” he says. “I think they’ve got a couple of key players. I think [Curtis] Granderson’s going to have a big year. And Bartolo Colon, I think is a good steady influence on the pitching staff and they have very powerful pitching. I mean, when you have a pitching staff like they could have … when they get back … Matt Harvey, I think he can be in every game. If they get a little luck with the offense, they could just surprise some people.”

We asked him about the high life of a major league owner.

“You have your own box when you’re an owner,” Maher said. “I mean, when I go to the games, so far I’ve stayed in my box. But, you can also sit right down on field level and I’m probably going to do that. I’m going to go back to an owner’s meeting in June and I think they’re playing the Braves that night, and I want to sit, like, really, really close to the field.”

Ballclub co-owner, writer, intelligent talker, Maher is a true renaissance man for this marijuana millennium. But, unlike some decriminalization intellectuals, this guy practices what he preaches. He smokes weed. And he breaks down boundaries doing it. Important boundaries.

“I mean, I used to smoke weed in nightclubs in the ’90s, and when people would come over from the club and tell me to put it out, I would say, ‘I want the rapper treatment.’ And they’d be like, ‘Well sir … ‘ And I’d be like, ‘You know exactly what I’m talking about: You don’t make the rappers put it out because you look at them and you go, ‘Oh, well that’s their culture.’ And I would always say, ‘Well this is my culture. Now let me smoke my weed here, just like the rappers.’

If Maher is not a founding stoner, he’s certainly a contemporary cannabis statesman.

Bill Maher is performing at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on April 18th

Check out the free The 420 Times iPhone and iPad App on the iTunes Store and Android App available on Google Play. Follow The 420 Times on Twitter and Facebook

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Woman Mugged On TV While Giving Interview On Street Crime (VIDEO)

April 10, 2014 by  
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Talk about mugging for the camera.

A Rio de Janeiro woman was getting interviewed about street crime by Brazil’s RJTV when a man ran up and attempted to steal her necklace, in footage published by Globo TV on Wednesday.

In the video, a reporter asks the woman if she is worried about crime in the city center just before an unidentified man pops into the frame and snatches her gold necklace, according to NPR.

The apparent thief rips the necklace off, but the woman manages to hang onto her jewelry. The reporter briefly pursues the young hooligan, but fails to catch him.

The would-be necklace thief was later reportedly apprehended by cops.
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Miami Herald Protests New ‘Culture Of Censorship’ At Guantanamo

April 9, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — The Miami Herald’s top editor called on the Department of Defense to withdraw new media restrictions at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, and blasted the 13-year-old facility’s growing “culture of censorship,” according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

In an April 4 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, executive editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez wrote that four Miami Herald journalists visiting Guantanamo Bay last month were forbidden “from photographing the faces of anyone but the detention center commander, his spokesman and the contractor in charge of catering.”

Gonzalez wrote that two sergeants and a private “systematically deleted any imagery” showing the face of anyone else, even if the identity of the person photographed had been previously disclosed and publicized. The Herald journalists were ordered to photograph troops from the neck down and were prevented from reporting names of any other members of the 2,100-member staff, according to the letter. Previously, reporters were allowed to photograph and name members of the military with their permission.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said Wednesday that Hagel was traveling in Asia. He said The Miami Herald, not HuffPost, sent the letter and would therefore receive any response first.

“The Secretary responds to correspondence to him in reasoned, due course, but never via the press,” Breasseale wrote in an email to HuffPost. “It’s worth noting that — without addressing the letter you ‘obtained’ directly — the Department takes very seriously the issue of access by the press at Guantanamo where it is lawful, reasonable, and responsible to do so and has an established history of doing just that.”

The rules for reporters covering Guantanamo constantly change, but the shifts usually have to do with staff turnover rather than changes in written policy. On one trip, reporters may be allowed to take photos of the orange barriers surrounding the military courtroom. On another trip, members of the military might delete every photo that includes any portion of an orange barrier. It took a long time for officials to allow reporters to bring spiral-bound notebooks into the courtroom observation room, even though reporters are separated from detainees by several layers of soundproof glass.

In September, military personnel stopped releasing daily counts of Guantanamo detainees they considered hunger strikers. In December, the military refused to respond to inquires about the number of hunger strikers.

Meanwhile, U.S. military media outlets appear to operate under fewer restrictions.

Gonzalez suggested a double standard, noting that a military-run outlet published the names and faces of four soldiers in an April 4 article.

“If we at the Miami Herald do the same thing, under Southcom’s new gag order on troops talking to media and new ground rules governing civilian media access, the people who censored my journalists at Guantánamo have the authority to expel them from the base and permanently ban them from reporting there,” Gonzalez wrote. “In short, under your rules, the story your media wing published would have been defined as an operational security violation had we published the same thing.”

In another example, Gonzalez wrote that troops seized video in December from a French journalist “who recorded a scene of Santa Claus at the Guantanamo commissary, with permission of an escort.” After deleting the image, she wrote, troops “later staged a similar photo and published it on the cover of the detention center’s in-house newsletter, The Wire.”

Gonzalez wrote that “a culture of censorship has set in at Guantanamo of a scale we have not experienced in the past 13 years of reporting from there.”

“Your troops are wielding editorial instruments on independent journalists with an ever-expanding interpretation of their power to influence the story of Guantanamo in the free press,” the editor wrote. “And in doing so, the organization whose motto is ‘Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent’ detention is implementing a dishonest double standard that snuffs out the reporting of basic information the public was once allowed to know.”

The tougher media restrictions come at a time when there would seem to be an interest on the part of the Obama administration in drawing attention to the massive expense of housing detainees — many cleared for transfer to other countries. President Barack Obama renewed his effort to get Congress to lift restrictions on closing Guantanamo’s detention facilities in his State of the Union address in January.

Miami Herald Letter

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Rand Paul May Have Been Right That Congress Was ‘Complicit’ In Torture

April 8, 2014 by  
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) applauded Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) last month after she spoke out against the CIA for allegedly spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency’s torture program. But Feinstein appeared to confirm Paul’s past suspicions that leaders of congressional intelligence committees were “complicit” in allowing torture during President George W. Bush’s (R) administration.

“The Republicans and the Democrats at high levels supported and at least knew that Bush had given these orders to allow torture to occur,” Paul said in an interview with Antiwar.com in May 2009, months before he launched his bid for Senate. “My guess is that the leaders of all the intelligence committees, as well as the congressional leaders on both sides, knew very well of all the things that were going on.”

Paul added that “all the leaders, both the Republicans and Democrats, are complicit in just about everything that happened.”

Feinstein, who has led the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, alleged on the Senate floor last month that the CIA had interfered with her staffers’ investigation of the agency’s use of torture on terror suspects. She argued the committee’s report should be declassified “to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

In describing how the report came about, Feinstein said, “The CIA’s detention and interrogation program began operations in 2002, though it was not until September 2006, that members of the Intelligence Committee, other than the chairman and vice chairman, were briefed.”

Senators apparently have been aware of the CIA’s use of torture for years — as Paul previously suggested. But they may not have known the extent of the torture program or the truth about its efficacy.

Feinstein’s report is said to describe how the CIA misled Congress and the public about its use of torture, hiding abuses and exaggerating the usefulness of torture techniques in preventing attacks on Americans, The Washington Post reported.

Paul said last month he believes senators fear an “intelligence community drunk with power” and said he had voiced his appreciation to Feinstein for standing up to the CIA, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Paul told a crowd of students at University of California, Berkeley, that he hoped Feinstein would “not let the CIA push her around.”

Last week, Feinstein’s committee voted to declassify parts of the committee’s report. The CIA has begun a declassification review of the Senate report’s executive summary.

In the May 2009 interview, Paul said he thought it would be better for the country to move forward than attempt to put Bush or former Vice President Dick Cheney on trial in court for authorizing the CIA to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on terror suspects.

“I’m not sure I’m in favor of trying George Bush in some kind of trial for torture,” Paul said then. “I don’t know that that does good for the country — I think it ended up being more of a political question than it ended up being whether or not you can try some political leader.”

Paul continued: “I think probably more important than the debate over prosecuting George Bush or Dick Cheney is the question of, ‘should we torture?’ And we need to make sure in the future that doesn’t happen again.”.

Listen to Paul’s interview with Antiwar.com (part 1, part 2 and part 3).
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George W. Bush And Bill Clinton Sit Side-By-Side At The NCAA Championship Game

April 8, 2014 by  
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Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton sat side-by-side at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Monday as they watched the NCAA championship game with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Bush and Clinton watched the Connecticut Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats compete to win college basketball’s national title. Former First Lady Laura Bush was also in attendance, sitting to her husband’s left.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was sitting in front of Bush and Clinton, and made it into a shot of the former presidents on the stadium’s jumbotron.

clinton

Bipartisan sportsmanship…42 and 43 enjoying the #NCAAChampionship together. #Bush #Clinton

— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) April 8, 2014

CORRECTION: The former first lady in attendance was originally misidentified as Barbara Bush.
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Times’ Clifford Levy: "We are Reimagining the News Experience for the Phone" with New App

April 7, 2014 by  
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Clifford Levy, a two-time Pulitzer Award winning New York Times reporter turned editor, says that this week’s  launch of NYT Now app represents the “reimagining of news” on a mobile phone.

Unlike the paper’s longstanding App, an elegant firehose of over over 200 daily news stories, the new one  is organized with far fewer articles, around the clock, by over a dozen dedicated editors.   The editors  create easily consumed bullets and story summaries of Times articles.  Editors also surface up relevant content from other news sources. Monthly subscription is $8.00.

Levy is the lead editor of the NYT Now app team.  We spoke with him earlier this week at a media reception for the new App at the Times offices.

You can find this post on Beet.TV.

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‘SNL’ French Dance With Anna Kendrick Features Some Cups, Naturally

April 6, 2014 by  
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If there was one sketch on Anna Kendrick’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” that was worth nerding-out on, it was the “French Dance.”

The recurring sketch is always an exercise in ridiculous exuberance and French stereotypes, but this one also featured a nod to Kendrick’s “Cup Song” performance from “Pitch Perfect,” as well as an appearance by Jay Pharoah as Chris Tucker’s over-the-top character from “The Fifth Element.”
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When Authentic Leadership Is Too Revealing: Brendan Eich’s Lessons

April 5, 2014 by  
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The Mozilla controversy train has finally stopped. After a tortured week of equivocal statements on welcoming all opinions, simultaneously affirming support for LGBT people while propping up a CEO who had given personal funds to beat marriage equality, Brendan Eich has resigned as CEO of Mozilla.

I and the organization I represent, the Human Rights Campaign, did not weigh in publicly during this week. Mozilla employees reached out to us following the start of the controversy to begin engagement on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, the national LGBT corporate ranking survey we administer every year.

Seizing a clear silver lining — a willingness to take the CEI — we commend their team for recognizing this goal as being worthwhile.

I think similarly situated businesses can learn a few things.

First off, Mozilla’s strongest statements clarifying its corporate views and some LGBT-inclusive policies came in reaction to the Eich controversy. Mozilla had not established a high level of commitment to making their LGBT inclusion public knowledge as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and hundreds of others have done for years through active participation in the Corporate Equality Index.

True or not, the company appeared to be defensive and without a solid foundation of equality already well-established. The company-issued statements glossed over their CEO’s public donation and commitment to restricting the marriage rights of a major segment of his own workforce and greater consumers Mozilla serves.

On March 29, the company issued a blog post supporting LGBT equality characterizing this as an issue of differing opinions all welcome under the same roof and noting,”[o]ne voice will not limit opportunity for anyone.”

True, if all voices are relatively equal, but this is the CEO.

Furthermore, why have such a prominent leader if his or her voice even suggests a limiting of opportunity?

In an age of corporate beliefs in “authentic leadership,” the fact that Mr. Eich took time out of his day and money out of his checkbook to defeat marriage equality in California most certainly is an insight into his authentic self. In other words, this is not an opinion that surfaced through nuanced and long conversations. It was decisive action aimed at restricting the rights of a minority group.

Nationally the question of basic rights for LGBT people is not a “to-may-to/to-mah-to” breezy difference of opinions.

Amongst the general public, marriage equality is less and less an abstract idea but instead has the very human faces of LGBT family members, friends and colleagues. To label it a simple matter of differing views is just too minimizing.

Without the prodding of LGBT interest groups, Mr. Eich’s Board peers resigned and others expressed their lack of confidence in his ability to lead.

Marriage equality and LGBT equality under the law have the support of the majority of Mozilla’s tech peers, along with hundreds of major businesses that have publicly weighed in at the state level, before the Supreme Court last year and via public coalitions to support legislation. The issue is one of smart business to many prominent corporate leaders, in addition to being the right thing to do.

The dotted lines just couldn’t connect — at once the company reactively affirmed some broad principles of equality, minimized the role of the CEO and failed to specifically and concretely convince its stakeholders of the rationale for tolerating Eich’s commitment to anti-equality measures.

In short, market forces — not just a vocal pro-equality group — took over.

Clearly, the company made a business decision that the reality of its CEO’s anti-LGBT actions was inconsistent with its continued financial well-being. Consumers have a lot of choices these days and why shouldn’t a CEO’s giving influence consumers’ perceptions of a company?

We are glad the story ends with a significant chance for change. The Human Rights Campaign welcomes the opportunity to turn a corner and work with Mozilla on the tenets of equality just as we have for hundreds of other major businesses.
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